A slightly paunchy man bludgeoning people to death with a wrench. Ellen Page in a close-fitting superhero costume. Nathan Fillion playing the Holy Avenger; a wholly unconvincing TV super. Kevin Bacon at his bad-guy best. All of these things are reasons to watch the latest mock-genre effort Super (2010).
Rainn Wilson plays ordinary-guy Frank D’Arbo who is married to recovering alcoholic slash drug addict Sarah (Liv Tyler). Unfortunately Sarah stops recovering and, at the hands of the slyly seductive Jacques (Kevin Bacon), slips back into her old, debauched habits. Far from blaming Sarah for this, who perhaps should have taken a little bit of responsibility for the way things turned out, Frank believes his wife to be pure of heart and consequently goes on a rampage of revenge which is loosely aimed in Jacque’s direction. Of course, if you’re going to get revenge these days you don’t hire a hit man, oh no that’s so 2005, you become a super hero. I mean how come nobody ever thought of just becoming a superhero before anyway, right?
Pretty soon Frank has decided on a killer nick name for himself: The Crimson Bolt, has thought up a succinct catchphrase: “Shut up, crime”, and has recruited himself a sensuously streamline sidekick in the form of Boltie (Ellen Page). There’s nothing to stop him now…oh except that he doesn’t actually have any super powers and is really just the aforementioned slightly paunchy man with a wrench.
As you may have already gathered this film is not without its similarities to the 2010 hit film Kick-Ass. It even overtly references key moments in the Kick-Ass script. The practicing-moves-in-the-mirror sequence ala Johnson / ala De Niro is almost replicated and the why-hasn’t-anyone-tried-being-a-superhero-yet conversation is pointedly woven into early discussion between Wilson and Page.
The slight problem with this? In the post-Big Daddy and Hit Girl filmscape I was left wondering, just a little bit, why this film had been made. As someone who has watched Jaws (1975), Shark Swarm (2008) and Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus (2009) I’m well aware of the fact that it is possible to make more than one amazingly entertaining film within a given genre. In this case, however, Kick-Ass was so slick; so perfectly executed that it makes quirky slants on the same subject quite difficult to completely sell to an audience…even if it is written and directed by Slither (2006) super-genius James Gunn and even if Gunn was working on Super at the same time that Millar and Co. were working on Kick-Ass.
I don’t want to come across as not having enjoyed this film – it does offer some truly excellent moments for those with a dark sense of humour. Fans of the comic book genre should definitely check it out and those of you who just happen to be in the cinema of a Tuesday evening could do a lot worse than to buy a ticket for Super. Those of you who have seen Kick-Ass, however, need to be prepared for how distracting it is watching a lower-budget (Super had a budget of $2m, Kick-Ass had a budget of $28m) duplicate. Super is a great little black comedy it’s just a shame, in some respects, that Kick-Ass got there first.
Director: James Gunn
Cast: Ellen Page, Rainn Wilson, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Michael Rooker, Nathan Fillion and others
Runtime: 96 min